Written By: Tamara Staton
In addition to installing solar arrays on a variety of homes and businesses in Oregon and SW Washington, we at Synchro Solar are also quite passionate about solarizing farms. Last year, at a local nonprofit farm in the heart of SE Portland, we installed a 16.56 kW array using 48 SolarWorld 345- watt modules. While we love solar and are happy to see *any *and *all *systems go up, we were especially excited about this project at Zenger Farm.
Zenger Farm is unique and holds a special place in society. While they have many of the farm accouterments that one might expect -- garden plots, wheelbarrows, chickens and compost -- Zenger goes above and beyond what one would normally expect of a traditional farm, adding a deeper and wider dimension to the field of farming. The solar energy they harness goes far beyond lighting and heating -- one could venture to say that their panels are energizing food access, stewardship and social justice.
Zenger Farm works to increase healthy food access to under supported communities, with a strong focus on education. They model, promote and educate about sustainable food systems, environmental stewardship,
community development and access to good food for all, going far beyond simple provision.
For example, all 5th graders from the David Douglas school district will be returning to the farm next month for the Spring session of Farm School, where their seasonal focus will be the sun, the seasons, and the length of days. Students manipulate their own mini-solar panels, harnessing solar energy to become their own solar DJs (more light = faster music!). Such activities inspire curiosity, help students to explore, to learn at their
own pace, and create opportunities for integration, so students can make new connections. Additional opportunities abound for students over spring and summer breaks, providing options to make nature-inspired crafts, explore the wetlands, dig in the garden beds, and cook from the fields. Spring Break campers, K-6, can choose to attend all week or for individual days, while summer campers, K-9th grade, have programs ranging from ‘Wild Craft’ to ‘Junior Chef’, running June through August.
In addition to programming for youth, Zenger Farm offers multiple opportunities for all members of the community to get involved. For those that want to enjoy the fruits of farm labor, a subscription share to a
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a great option, and even comes complete with a long list of shared recipes.
Groups and individuals are encouraged to set up a visit --- exploration happens regularly at the farm, with almost daily field trips and hands on exploration. From time to time, the farm hosts events, as well. Last year, Synchro Solar was a sunshine sponsor for the Annual Hoedown on July 22, and enjoyed the opportunity to participate in a sunny, community-based party that, according to Kelli Wolford, Synchro General Manager, felt more like a super fun family reunion than a fundraising event. “It was wonderful to see so many people come together who care about the accessibility of good quality, local, healthy food throughout our diverse community,” Wolford shares. “For me, the passion behind teaching young people about farming is huge...this
goes hand in with teaching a new generation about solar. Health of people and health of planet wrapped up in one.”
Stewardship and sustainability are overlapping values that we share as Synchro Solar and Zenger Farm. We exist as interdependent entities and individuals with a responsibility to protect and integrate. Maya Edelstein,
Development and Communications Manager at Zenger, recognizes this priority and the key role that the many partners play for Zenger Farm. “We’re aware,” says Maya, “that the work that we’re doing around food access,
sustainability and education requires community partnership and support.”
We don’t exist in a vacuum, we can’t do this alone. Relying on and supporting each other -- our communities, our partners -- is akin to doing the same from the sun, for the earth, for those of us that seek
independence from that which repels interdependence. What we do now makes a difference: the solar we install, the communities we support, the youth whom we educate. The way we support each other and the earth on which we live, pays dividends and beyond to those who need them when they’re needed most. Thank you, Zenger Farm, for taking on what really matters.